On January 13, 2018, a false ballistic missile alert that lasted 38 minutes was issued across Oahu, Hawaii, United States. As a result of a system failure, an erroneous text message was sent that stated, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter.”
The research team wanted to know the degree of reported anxiety triggered by the event and if knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors for individual/family emergency preparedness (EP) changed post-event.
A 50-question survey that asked about individual and family EP pre- and post-event, and the level of anxiety triggered by the event, was administered to a convenience sample of full-time adult residents of Oahu. The study was conducted over a 6-8 week period post-event. Statistical analysis was used to identify factors associated with an increasing level of EP post-event and reported event-triggered anxiety.
209 participants completed the survey (29% male, 71% female) with about one half living with children. One third were essential workers. Key factors that correlate with increasing various areas of EP post-event include higher educational, receipt of electronic emergency alerts, prior emergency training, and higher reported connectedness to community. Those with higher event anxiety were more likely to develop and practice an EP plan post-event, encourage EP with friends, and report a higher level of community connectedness. The elderly were more likely to have higher levels of EP before and after the event but were less likely to receive emergency alert notifications or have EP training.
While the event was very unfortunate, it did seem to stimulate citizen disaster EP among some groups. Additional research should explore the utility of increasing EP education for communities immediately after disasters, tailoring this education for groups, and targeting the elderly for participation in the emergency alert system.